Well, it’s that time of year again, when politicians from Chris Christie to Barack Obama are giving their “State Of…” speeches, so I thought I’d give my own little version. Call it: State of the Democrats.
These speeches are usually little more than formalized excuses for executives of local, state and federal government to grab some headlines and unearned face-time with the cameras for an hour or two, to spout whatever boilerplate happens to be their flavor-of-the-minute. So I’m going to do you a favor and not go on at tremendous length about every facet of the state of the Democratic party throughout the country. Instead, I’m just going to give one small snapshot and let it stand for the overall theme I want to hit.
In 2006, Florida Democrats (in their “wisdom”) offered the state Jim Davis as their champion in the race for Governor that year against Republican Charlie Crist. Crist was the popular, telegenic Republican Attorney General of Florida who’d shot to prominence by expanding the powers of his office, fighting spammers and freezing utility rates. In short, Crist was enormously popular in Florida despite the fact that, as a recent (and very much worth reading) New Republic review of his just-published memoirs (The Party’s Over) notes, Crist is
…such a political hack, and so unable to talk or sound like a normal human being, that he actually provides a window into the soul-destroying business of politics.
Facing such an opponent, why did Florida Democrats choose Jim Davis? Because they thought he could win, period. Sadly, for at least a couple of decades now, when you hear Democrats describing a candidate as “electable,” that means he or she is conservative enough – similar enough to a Republican themselves – to win over the coveted “Reagan Democrats” who are believed to be all-important in close elections.
Davis was a former co-chair of the New Democrat Coalition in the US House of Representatives. Who are the New Democrats? They’re a “centrist-leaning,” DLC-affiliated group of Representatives whose shared purpose is (from their own About Us page) to ensure “that the voices of our tech and business communities are heard in Washington.”
What does that look like in reality? Well, for starters, if the NDC are proud to publicly proclaim their goal is to represent the nation’s grievously underrepresented business and tech “communities” (read: “corporations”) in Washington, then you’ll be unsurprised to know they’re not shy behind the scenes about taking massive amounts of money from those same interests — particularly from Wall Street. You know, the guys who nearly crashed the world economy in 2008.
What does that, in turn, mean in practice? It means things like long after the near-catastrophe of 2008, when the damage was done and the causes known, the NDC were out there (along with the GOP, of course), diligently working to water down the very rules which were being designed to prevent such disasters in the future:
Melissa Bean of Illinois and her fellow members of the New Democrat Coalition — who have collectively accepted massive amounts of money from the financial services industry since 2008 — temporarily blocked the landmark financial regulatory reform bill from hitting the House floor on Wednesday.
To be fair, Jim Davis had left Congress in 2006 to run for Governor in Florida, so the above is none of his doing at all. But I use this example because Davis was pushing similar pro-business and anti-consumer proposals back when he was co-chair of this same organization, and also to illustrate the fact that not even a financial catastrophe of the magnitude of the ’08 crash could dissuade the NDC or even cause them to reconsider their priorities. That’s the best indicator I can provide of where their loyalties have always lain.
So, that’s the lay of the land, ca 2006: a soulless GOP political hack, Crist, against “Democrat” Jim Davis, who’s probably indistinguishable from Crist on the majority of pocketbook issues that truly affect people the most in their daily lives. What was the result? Crist won handily of course, defeating Davis 52%-45%, and proving Harry Truman’s old adage: “Give the people a choice between a Republican and a Democrat who talks like a Republican and they’ll choose the Republican every time.”
Now comes the truly unpleasant part. Fast forward to today, 2014, and what do we have in Florida? We have Democrats attempting to unseat the truly awful far-right Republican Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, by running a recently-minted Democrat against him. That newly-minted Democrat’s name?
That’s the State of the Democrats in 2014, folks. The party proper, anyway. This is how the Overton Window works, by the way: Charlie Crist, the guy Dems carefully chose a pro-corporate Dem to run against in 2006, as the only one who could beat him (but who didn’t)…is now the same guy Dems are choosing to run as the only one who can win against the even-further-right Rick Scott in 2014. And so we have yesterday’s news that Crist is leading Scott by 7 points causing rank-and-file Democrats (who describe themselves as “politically savvy”) to actually cheer the news.
Usual caveats: it’s very early in the 2014 election cycle, and a seven-point lead may erode slowly, or it may evaporate overnight, depending on changing conditions on the ground over the next 11 months. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible Crist will hold on to – or even expand – his lead all the way up to election day. In which case, Florida Democrats will have replaced the truly odious Rick Scott as Governor of Florida with…the previous Republican governor of Florida. This is “progress?”
Plus ça change, Democratic Party-style. It’s enough to make one wonder: with Democrats like these, who needs Republicans?